The Gift of Giving

As we move closer to the American Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas, it’s definitely the season for giving. But is giving about large-scale charity? Is it something we remember at this time of the year alone? Beyond corporate social responsibility, what does everyday giving look like? Why does it matter? As leaders, coaches, and influencers, there’s so much we can do. In this post, I share 5 practices to embrace the spirit of giving

1. Share Your Wisdom

Last week, I had the privilege of presenting to a distinguished group of coaches from different parts of the world. They were from Japan, Romania, Australia, the US, and France. Like a group of Yodas, their energy filled the virtual room with deep wisdom. I felt like I was witnessing the most amazing dance of giving and receiving. They shared freely, engaged deeply, and supported each other, generously.

I don’t know if they all knew each other before but I marvelled at the chemistry and dynamics. They all seemed to have in common, the gift of wisdom, which is beyond power, influence, and authority. Instead, it finds it roots in kindness, love, and genuine intent to help.

Of the hundreds and thousands of sessions I have facilitated over the years, my most precious takeaway is the generosity of wisdom people choose to share and how it elevates the playing field in ways never imagined before.

2. “Send the Elevator Down”

One of the most astonishing posts I read last week was from my favorite blogger, author, and social media influencer, Mark Schaefer.  His post was titled: 18 Ways I make Money. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of articles, webinars, online training etc. that teach you how to make money. Some are great and some make claims that don’t necessarily justify their grand promise. But this was a rare post that listed everything the author was actually doing. Genuine, authentic, and incredibly detailed. For students of social media or marketing and for young entrepreneurs, it’s worth its weight in gold. Mark also wrote about what he doesn’t do and why he places such premium on the currency of trust.

On another occasion, I ordered his latest book from Amazon. When it arrived, I joyfully posted a photo on Facebook. Within a few hours, I received a message from Mark and he wrote: “So disappointed. It looks like you received the OLD book. Please share your mailing address and I will send you a copy of the NEW edition.”

Who does that?! To care enough to right a wrong (caused by a glitch on the Amazon website) simply because one of his many readers received the wrong edition of his book is just extraordinary.

3. Support and Sponsor

Over time, I discovered that people hesitate to ask for recommendations of their work on LinkedIn. Maybe they’re fearful that they may never get it. Or afraid that people may see this as job hunting. I’ve also noticed that people hesitate to give recommendations. I don’t know what holds them back. Lack of time in an already busy day? Fear of losing reputation or brand value if the person they recommended, does something silly? Afraid of approving someone their peers or leaders don’t particularly like? I don’t know. So often, I see people and colleagues connect on LinkedIn and that’s where the ‘conversation’ starts and ends. But for goodness sake, it’s 2017. It’s a time when social is thriving. Don’t be a passive bystander! If you know the person and you genuinely recommend their work, do it joyfully! Read, like, comment, share, and subscribe, to their channels, websites, and blogs. These are the cryptocurrencies of engagement today.

Continuing on the topic of engagement, I noticed something odd in one particular organization. Promotions were often discussed in hushed whispers. Announcements were a low-key affair. Celebrations were muted. Appreciation was discreet and shared in e-mails marked ‘private’. Support and sponsorship had powerful presence but nobody really ‘saw’ it. It was only much later I realized this was a direct consequence of an unwritten norm in their culture: No amount of hard work was ever enough. Celebrations, if any, were an interruption and distraction from carrying out your duties.

How can teams bring their best selves to everything they do if there’s no transparent recognition or sponsorship of their greatest value? If the only thing they are valued for is their ‘work’, what is the worth of the engagement that creates great work? I’ll never forget what I once read on the TMBC website: Talent + Engagement = Performance. Leaders of high-performing teams openly support, sponsor, coach, and mentor the teams and businesses they lead and serve.

4. Be an Unsung Hero

The world has witnessed many tragedies in the recent past. From natural calamities like hurricanes in the US to Northern California Fires, to mass shootings of innocent lives, we have reeled under their impact. But these tragedies also brought communities together in ways never seen before. People united in unlikely ways and our connected humanness shone like a candle in the wind. Nobody ‘played’ for recognition or a medal. None of them fought for a badge of honor. The only thing that brought them together and kept them together was the intent to serve and give – their time, effort, money, kindness, and compassion.

Every day, we have the opportunity to be of service. We have to grab it with both hands and make it count. With the sole intent of serving and with zero expectations of receiving.

5. Include to Belong 

Have you been in meetings where you’re called upon to introduce yourself? How the host does that makes for interesting insights: Did they choose by alphabetical order? Did they choose by calling upon people they were most comfortable with? Or did they start by identifying people with ‘most’ power and then move down to those with ‘least’ power? What does this reveal about the ‘importance meter’? How can we understand the ‘power equation’ in this context? Indeed, what does this say about ‘belonging’?

One of my favorite leaders is now part of the LinkedIn family. Radha Shreeniwas and I once chatted about LinkedIn’s culture of belonging, That’s when I realized how belonging is at the heart of how individuals and teams choose to bring their very, best to everything they do. All discretionary effort is inspired by this. Teams, in turn, are inspired by giving their time, focus, and energy; not just transactionally but also relationally.

When you create the culture and environment that supports giving, the gift of giving becomes second nature to organizations. If you have a gift that can make somebody’s day, give generously! If you’re an influencer whose sponsorship and support can meaningfully transform careers or lives, give with all your heart. In the words of one of my favorite teachers of Happiness, Tal Ben-ShaharWhen you appreciate the good, the good appreciates. 


Anitha Aswath is an HR Consultant and Strengths Coach of Leader Success in the Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area at Cisco. She has the unique privilege of meeting Cisco clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of their teams.

THIS IS A PERSONAL BLOG AND VIEWS DON’T REPRESENT CISCO’S STRATEGIES OR OPINIONS.

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